The Leadership Pipeline – Taking an Honest Look

Dan Ehrhart,  Vice President – Applications Solutions Group


Whether you are an executive or a frontline manager, regularly assessing and investing in your “leadership pipeline” in an intentional way is important for the health of your organization. You often cannot move up, move on, or retire in good conscience without a successor. If there is no one to replace you in your current role, you might be passed over for a promotion.

At Keller Schroeder, we annually review our succession plans, identify holes and development areas, and make appropriate adjustments. We have historically invested more time and attention toward the top of the organization, but are getting better at looking more deeply at all levels of leadership. We strive to identify and develop prospective leaders as soon as they demonstrate an interest and propensity for influencing others and growing professionally.

Acquiring and keeping good people is vital in IT, where demand exceeds supply. From my experience, younger generations are more apt to want to develop into technical masters than to manage and lead as compared to my generation. A healthy mix is critical for us and probably for you as well. Some will want to develop into leaders, so let’s give them opportunities.

As a leader you may be carrying an inordinate load. If so, that is added incentive for you to equip those you lead who want to grow. Improve your delegation skills if needed. Take time to invest in them. The added short-term pain it might add to your load pays long-term dividends. John C. Maxwell’s Equipping 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know is a good primer on equipping leaders, and is the source of much of the following.

Qualities to look for in selecting someone to equip include: character, positive attitude, self-discipline, people skills, communication skills, and commitment. When possible, strive to select someone to equip who is committed vs. simply interested, as they will be more likely to stay around.

As the equipper, strive to:

    1. Model, mentor, and empower, without being a control freak
    2. Clear obstacles and create new opportunities for growth
    3. Give responsibility, authority, and accountability
    4. Teach servant leadership
    5. Create a climate where the person being equipped doesn’t fear making a mistake or being accountable (i.e., mistakes are expected as part of the learning process)

When practical, have the person being equipped train another person, since the best way to learn something is to teach it.

I encourage you to take a look at your leadership pipeline and consider some next steps to improve it. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, only to look up and find yourself far from your desired path after months or years of plodding ahead. For more information on leadership pipelines, head to your search engine of choice. You will find much material, for example, The Leadership Pipeline : How to Build the Leadership Powered Company by Charan, Drotter, and Noel.

In the words of Peter Drucker, “No executive has ever suffered because his people were strong and effective.”



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